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Dint-ty the DDT Chimp

I found this handsome little chap in a vintage sale at Saltaire a few weeks ago.

He caught my eye, not just because of the use of DDT in the home, but also because one of my clients rents the old Cox’s chemical site in Telford, although Dint-ty was made in Middlesex.

The stall holder had wrapped him in cellophane “in case there’s any DDT left”, and I thought he was a bargain for only £1.

Of course, cellophane may not necessarily act as a barrier against any residual DDT, but I’m keeping him in a rarely used filing cabinet in my office, well away from any living creatures.

At first, I was quite horrified at the thought of paper dipped in DDT being used to kill insects in the home, but of course this product would have been made in the 1950s, judging by the artwork.

This was well before the harmful ecological effects of DDT became known.

At the time, people were simply using the toxic effects of DDT in a way that directly benefited them. Even in the 1950s there were still a lot of working horses around, e.g. pulling milk carts, and flies attracted to the horse dung were a much bigger household pest to urban householders than they are now.

Dint-ty is actually part of a much older tradition of using flypapers, which date back to at least the 1850s. These days, flypapers tend to just be sticky traps, without any poison, but in the past flypapers often used arsenic, which was widely used around the home and garden for a variety of purposes.

Dint-ty also looks forward to things like car air fresheners, and there’s a fascinating article on the history of those little green car trees here. The patent for these car air fresheners was in 1954, probably around a similar time to our chimp.

And we shouldn’t forget that DDT is still used to kill mosquito larvae in stagnant water in areas of the world which are still blighted by the scourge of malaria. Nothing as effective has been found to date, as far as I’m aware.

Malaria can be fatal in children, and is very debilitating in adults. Once the Plasmodium parasite enters your bloodstream, it can give you flu-type symptoms with high temperature, aches and vomiting, and there can be dangerous complications such as cerebral malaria and severe anaemia.

Before modern medicine, once you caught malaria, you had it for life.

My paternal grandfather, who was a ship’s engineer in the days of coal fired steam powered engines, was bitten by an infected mosquito some where on his travels, at some time before the First World War (he was part of that unlucky generation who served in both World Wars, but was lucky enough to survive both).

He had recurrent bouts of malaria every few years, where he turned yellow and had to take to his bed for a fortnight with a fever, according to my grandmother. Co-incidentally, when I was very young, she had a lovely black and white cat called Dinty, and that may have been another reason for me to buy Dint-ty the DDT chimp!

So am I over-reacting to the name DDT, which has such connotations as a dreadful poison? And would Dint-ty be classified for CLP these days?

I’ll discuss this in my next article.

GHS Classification Courses from TT Environmental Ltd

20th August 2019

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